It’s time to come home. That’s the theme on Cinematic, the sixth studio album from electronic music maven Adam Young, aka Owl City.
Cinematic is reminiscent of an 80s-themed movie soundtrack, mixing Young’s trademark synth-pop sound with a creative, retro touch. The album’s title offers a clue about the content of its 18 songs. Young says of Cinematic, “It’s a personal narrative, as if a film was made from key scenes throughout my life.”
And that’s exactly what it feels like– a movie come to life in your ears … and a pretty inspiring one at that.
The title track encourages us to recognize that our lives are like movies and that each one of us is playing a lead role: “So go get ’em, and give it some passion/Quiet on the set/Lights, camera, action!/With all your heart and soul/Dream big, and you can feel the magic.”
“Madeline Island” fondly recalls a camping trip that Young took with his parents: “Drove out to Big Bay State Park/Picked out our campsite/We settled in underneath the stars/And there we were.” Another song full of wanderlust is “Montana,” the romanticized lyrics of which practically sound like a commercial from the state’s tourist bureau: “I found myself for the first time/When Montana enchanted me/So get lost in the Big Sky country/Where adventure calls your name.”
“Be Brave” tells the story of when Young first met his longtime girlfriend, while “Cloud Nine” sings of how happy you can be with the one you love: “Meet the one who makes your heart stop/Find a diamond in a gift shop/Leave a little of a whole lot/And you’ll be shouting from the rooftop/You got me floating on cloud nine.”
“Winners Never Quit” focuses on pushing steadily through life’s obstacles at your own pace and not giving up before the end: “I might take my time/‘Cause I find the fable had it right/Slow and steady wins the race/And I might lag behind/But I swear I’ll cross the finish line.” “Fiji Water” delivers Young’s advice to his younger self as he recalls the fame he achieved at the age of 22: “And I’d say, ‘Hey, there is more to me than meets the eye/Let me be who I wanna be’/And I’d say ‘Hey, I’m an oddity and that’s all right/Let me fly and follow my dreams.’”
In songs such as “All My Friends,” “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” and “Firebird,” Young shares stories of those he loves, including his brother, his close friends and his heroic father. Of the latter, he sings “He doesn’t fight crime or wear a cape … /But every time my world needs saving, he’s my Superman/Some folks don’t believe in heroes ’cause they haven’t met my dad.”
GO BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THIS VIDEO!
“Lucid Dream” returns to Young’s whimsical, imaginative lyrical roots: “Such is the path of a dreamer/I find my way by moonlight/My imagination gives me wings/And I can go anywhere.” And “Always” reminds us that we need not carry all our own weight, because God is “just a prayer away.”
Speaking of God, those who look closely at the album cover will see (among the autobiographical images there) what appears to be an open Bible and a man walking upon it whose shadow is in the shape of a cross.
Young said that one of his goals on Cinematic was to spur his listeners to appreciate the special moments in their lives, the ones he calls “movie magic moments.” I think he’s achieved that admirable intent here.
We all have those moments in our lives, no matter how difficult a hand we’ve been dealt, that we can look back upon fondly. It’s nice to remember the times when everything felt simpler, safer, full of wonder. Young’s collection of personal vignettes might well prompt us to revisit some of our own sweet memories, the triumphant scenes from our past.
And that, says Young, is exactly “what the title alludes to.” Each of our lives, he says, is like a movie. In it “you have an audience cheering you on. Everybody is in your corner. Do your best for them.”
–Reviewed by Kristen Smity